Video games are undoubtedly an important part of 21stcentury human society. The number of video gamers numbers in the billions – it is perhaps the most popular hobby humans have ever had; it is certainly the most popular today. Video games continue to influence human culture as the industry itself continues to grow whilst the industry has also been a huge driving force for the electro music scene.
Although it was not their intention, early 90s video games introduced a generation of 80s and 90s kids to electro music. The music soundtracks deriving from ground-breaking video games such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage 1,2 and 3 were years ahead of their time and influenced a variety of electro music that has become so popular today.
Ahead of their time
A number of video games that were released in the 90s showcased electro soundtracks. The video above is the soundtrack from one of the most well-known game soundtracks of all time: Streets of Rage. The soundtracks blended into the background perfectly and they were also catchy – you would find yourself genuinely favouring some level songs over others and enjoying them. The soundtracks to these games were simpler and so were the games themselves but at the same time they were super fun to play as well as challenging – a great mix.
A reddit post compiled a nice list of some fantastic video games with electro music soundtracks. Some mentions include:
- Hotline Miami
- Streets of Rage 1,2 and 3
- Ecco the Dolphin
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- GoldenEye 007
As aforementioned, the soundtrack from the Streets of Rage series seems to be mentioned in 99% of conversations related to video game music. Not only this, but a variety of famous music artists and producers incuding Just Blaze, a Hip-Hop producer who is well-known for working with the likes of Jay Z stated that the music to Streets of Rage would not look out of place at a techno rave today.
It was video game music composer Yuzo Koshiro who came up with the soundtrack to the Streets of Rage series. This music has gone on to be considered as some of the best video game music of all time whilst it also continues to inspire present day artists including Labrinth and Childish Gambino. Koshiro himself was influenced by club music, specifically house and techno music. Koshiro wanted to be the first to introduce those sounds to video games. Street of Rage 2 especially is considered to have one of the greatest video game soundtracks to have ever been created according to Games Radar with its “trancey electronic textures that would feel as comfortable in a nightclub as a video game.”
The reason behind the music?
The electro beats varied in length, but they were crucial to the games as the music would help to energize and motivate players. The beat of the music was not there to keep players playing or as an early attempt to use behavioural psychology techniques in order to keep players addicted, which has been proven to occur in some modern video games. The repetitive electro beat would not get tedious but would instead give players focus – they had a mission and the mission must be completed. This helped create a greater sense of achievement once the player had completed the game – an important factor when it comes to our enjoyment of video games. For the reason being that the majority of video games are now based around the online multiplayer aspect, there is never a true feeling of accomplishment after beating the game, there are only small feelings of winning battles without the large feeling of winning the war, so to speak. Overall, the music was there to help the player beat the game.
With that being said, the likely hood was that there was a reason behind the soundtrack – game creators wanted a soundtrack that would not distract gamers from gaming. It is unlikely that the game designers would have expected their usually extremely easy to produce and cost-effective soundtracks to have lived on in the nostalgia driven memories of thousands if not millions of people worldwide, though.
Today, electro music is still played within a variety of video games. Video games are now somewhat known for giving a platform to relatively unknown bands and artists who are able to showcase their music to the world. Retro electro soundtracks are also still used, although this is rarer these days with many mainstream video games preferring to use more modern themes. However, a variety of high variance slot games use retro style electro music, for example. The thought behind this is most likely that since electro soundtracks help to keep players stimulated whilst they are gaming, it is the perfect music to have in the background of a casino slots game.
First of all, it should be known just how lucrative the video game industry today is to music. To sum up this point up – Aerosmith has earned more money from their tracks on Guitar Hero than on any of their albums. Whilst The Guardian reports that the video game industry is helping music to thrive. At the same time, music artists such as Timbaland are embracing the retro renaissance. Timbaland samples chiptune in some of his songs which is a type of synthesized gaming music created by gaming and computer software from the 80s.
The electro music scene today has become a part of the mainstream. Avicci and Swedish House Mafia helped electro style gain worldwide fame and popularity. Expect the video game industry and the music industry to continue to work together in the future.